New millage to address road issues in Chocolay Township

MARQUETTE — The condition of roads seems to be a common problem in the Upper Peninsula these days — and Chocolay Township is no different.

Township officials on Tuesday will turn to residents for approval of a millage that will provide funds to pave 2 to 3 miles of roadway annually.

The millage, if approved, would levy 1.7 mills for up to 15 years — from 2017 to 2031 — for the maintenance, rehabilitation, repair, reconstruction and improvement of public roads within the township, in compliance with an asset plan developed for the roads.

It’s estimated to raise about $352,000 the first year it is levied, according to ballot language.

The millage mirrors one that was approved by voters and levied in the township from 2007 to 2012, according to a memo from Chocolay Township Supervisor Steve Lawry.

From 2007 through 2012, the township levied 1.7 mills specifically for road repairs. Using those tax dollars collected, the township resurfaced about 2.5 miles of streets per year. The authorization for that millage expired in 2012 and voters approved a millage of similar magnitude that year to fund and equip a new fire station for the township, Lawry’s memo states.

“All debt associated with the fire station has now been paid off and the township board would like to resume the road maintenance program,” Lawry said.

The township hired GEI Consultants to do a detailed study on the present condition of township streets in March.

The study focused on the most effective type of repair and estimated cost for each, and developed a set of priorities for the list of roadway repairs needed based upon present condition, threats to public safety, cost of repair, estimated traffic volumes, and coordination with other planned projects, Lawry said.

Engineers estimated the township’s total road maintenance needs at $11.1 million, Lawry said. The 1.7-mill request won’t provide enough funding to accelerate the paving on all remaining township roads that need improvement within three to five years, Lawry said, and it isn’t sufficient to make annual payments on bonds or a loan for the entire sum.

“What it will fund is a resumption of the program previously in place that provided for the paving of 2-3 miles of roadway per year,” Lawry said.

The list of repairs prepared by GEI is available on the township website, Lawry said.

“(It) will help ensure that the township spends the available funds where they will have the greatest overall impact and where they can be used to match grant dollars, developer funds or utility projects,” Lawry said. “The list should not be viewed as a permanent order of repair. The list will be reviewed against the same set of criteria every two to three years, and as conditions change, the order may also change.”

Lawry said the township also plans to work with the Marquette County Road Commission to target streets on which the road commission anticipates culvert replacement or other drainage improvements to extend the life of the paving investment.

More information on road improvements can be found at www.chocolay.org.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.